As the lifting of pandemic restrictions and rising vaccination rates bring relief to many people, others fear a coming wave of a different kind. State and local agencies, along with housing advocates, are trying to avert a spike in homelessness due to the evictions of families and individuals who have fallen behind on their rent payments. Some shelter providers are also preparing to accommodate a potential increase in demand for space in a system that usually operates at capacity.
The Massachusetts eviction moratorium imposed during the coronavirus pandemic ended in October 2020 and although the CDC restriction is still in effect, it too will end on July 31st. The Commonwealth provided additional funds in rental assistance (https://www.mass.gov/info-details/emergency-housing-payment-assistance-during-covid-19) and made available other programs of support from the American Rescue Plan Act to help stem this tide. Each of these forms of assistance helps pay back rent or mortgages for income-qualified people so the hope is that increased funding made available to tenants and landlords will stem the tide of an eviction spike. However, no one is sure if these resources are enough. Even before the pandemic, 30% of families experiencing homelessness gave eviction as the reason for needing shelter. The past year has only exacerbated the conditions that lead to homelessness such as job loss, domestic violence, unemployment, childcare, and lack of affordable housing. During the COVID pandemic, many women (estimated to be as many as 3 million nationally) had to leave the workforce due to lack of childcare, thus impeding their ability to stay consistently employed. Rents will continue to go up, even though the pandemic curbed the escalation for a brief period. The demand and competition for housing will rise in late summer as college students return to town. Once someone falls behind in rent payments it is hard to catch up due to continued unemployment, running out of unemployment benefits, and competing demands on income for essential needs like food, transportation, and medical resources.
Massachusetts Trial Court’s Data & Housing Court Statistics on eviction filings reveal the last wave:
|Eviction filings in Massachusetts dropped significantly between January (2,426 filings in trial courts) and April 2020 (218 filings). The Massachusetts eviction moratorium went into effect from April 20th through October 2020. Eviction filings went up to 2,378 for November, followed by 3,057 in December, and 1,918 in January 2021. Tenants worked out payment plans or sought assistance to help with rent, and filings fell to below 1,500 for the past four months. Now, the concern is that eviction filings could move upward again, once the CDC moratorium ends at the end of this month. |
Hopefully, enough is being done to keep more families and individuals from experiencing homelessness.
|However, the Household Pulse Survey conducted in June by the U.S. Census Bureau reports that about 3.2 million people say they will be evicted within the next two months.|
|The survey is issued bi-monthly and measures the economic impact of coronavirus on Americans, including housing and employment. The end of June report indicates that of the nearly 53 million surveyed, almost 8 million people nationwide reported being behind in their rent. In Massachusetts, 94,292 households reported being behind in their rent. The largest group in Massachusetts who owe back rent are between the ages of 40-54, representing over 37,000 households. Another 20,000 respondents ages 25-39 are behind in their payments in our state.|
|Females, Blacks, and Latinx households are more likely to be behind and at risk for eviction. Of the 94,292 Massachusetts respondents who reported being behind in their rent, 51% were people of color and 53% were female.|
|One hopes the eviction wave does not materialize, but Hildebrand is preparing to expand its capacity in preparation for the increased need for shelter that may come in the second half of this year. This summer we will open additional units of emergency shelter exclusively for displaced Boston families, in partnership with Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), and a few other providers are expected to do the same. Hildebrand will accept referrals directly from Boston’s Homeless Continuum of Care (CoC) and will provide shelter, housing search assistance, and stabilization support to families well after they leave. |
We hope it will not be needed.